After 66 years of operating under the Dixie Darlings moniker, the University of Southern Mississippi’s marching band’s precision dance team has announced it will soon choose a new name to represent the squad.
A statement released Aug. 7 on the team’s website said the decision was made – and the new name will be chosen – by the leadership of the Pride of Mississippi and all of its component performing units, in consultation with university administrators and the Southern Miss Alumni Association’s Traditions Committee.
Although a specific reason for the name change was not given, the statement said it has become increasingly difficult for the university’s students to focus on the school’s core values of excellence and the faculty’s ability to provide a positive and safe environment.
“We are proud that the organization is composed of a student population which accurately reflects the diverse makeup of the student body of The University of Southern Mississippi,” the statement said. “It is through listening and learning that the leadership of The Pride of Mississippi and all of its component units have decided to begin a process, to include current and former members of the team, of a name change.
“While change is not always comfortable or easy, we trust that points of discomfort can result in significant positive growth. We are excited to embrace that growth and look forward to taking the journey into our organization’s next century of excellence together.”
In addition to the name change, an original piece of music has been commissioned to use as the team’s entry music while coming onto the field during pregame performances at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
“These changes continue our ongoing commitment to maintaining a positive and safe environment for the students of The Pride of Mississippi,” the statement said.
The Dixie Darlings were created in 1954 under the university’s fourth president, Robert Cook, and the team performed for the first time at the Mississippi Southern College vs. Alabama game at Montgomery in September 1954.
During the 1950s through the 1970s, the Dixie Darlings performed at many nationally televised events including the Sugar Bowl, the All-Star Football game in Chicago and a Washington Redskins game in Washington, D.C.
The group has marched in the New Year’s Day Parade in London and at a Green Bay Packers game to honor former quarterback Brett Favre on his birthday.
In 2004, for its 50th anniversary, 254 Dixie Darlings marched and danced on the field at halftime.
The team celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2019 during a Southern Miss homecoming game, where approximately 70 Dixie Darling alumnae joined the 38-woman team to perform with the Pride of Mississippi at a Southern Miss vs. University of Texas football game.